Washington: Kentucky Derby winner Justify will break from the seventh post in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday in search of the second leg of US flat racing’s coveted Triple Crown.
The chestnut colt, greeted by a throng of admirers and reporters when he arrived at Pimlico racetrack in Baltimore from Louisville, is coming off a commanding two-and-a-half-length victory in the Kentucky Derby.
Trainer Bob Baffert’s four prior Kentucky Derby winners have all gone on to win the Preakness, so it was no surprised to see Justify, who will again be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, installed as an early favourite.
Kentucky Derby runner-up good Magic will start from the fifth post in the eight-horse field and was made the second choice.
Baffert said Justify, who was unraced as a two-year-old but has won all four of his starts, would have his first Pimlico workout on Friday.
“He shipped really well,” Baffert said. “He looks like he came off the van in great shape. He’s really full of himself. I could tell by the way he was dragging me around. He’s on his game.”
A pretty good horse
Baffert said he didn’t mind any added pressure of bringing the Derby winner to the Preakness with a Triple Crown still on the horizon.
Only 12 horses have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in the same year, the most recent the Baffert-trained American Pharoah in 2015.
“I like when I have the Derby winner because I know that I have a pretty good horse,” Baffert said. “It’s fun for everybody.”
But Baffert warned the Preakness was “not a ‘gimme,’” noting that Good Magic “ran a big race” at Churchill Downs and remained a tough competitor.
Good Magic, trained by Chad Brown, galloped on Pimlico’s muddy track for a second straight day on Wednesday.
Brown is seeking a second straight Preakness after saddling winner Cloud Computing last year.
Quip, who skipped the Kentucky Derby after a second-place finish in the Arkansas Derby, was made the third choice after drawing the first post.
Quip is trained by Rodolphe Brisset, a 34-year-old Frenchman who honed his skills as an assistant to two-time Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Patrick Biancone and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
Quip is owned by a partnership that includes WinStar Farm and China Horse Club — the same principals who own Justify.
Brisset doesn’t think it odd that Quip’s connections would put him up against their own superstar in Justify.
“They are very good horsemen, they know the business and they think by the horse,” Brisset said. “Now at the end of the day, if Justify is the horse they think he is, he’s going to beat Quip and maybe go on and win the Triple Crown.”
Two horses disappointed in the Kentucky Derby will try to turn the tables on Justify — sixth-placed Derby finisher Bravazo and eighth-placed Lone Sailor.
Bravazo, one of two horses saddled by 82-year-old D Wayne Lukas, will break from the outside eighth post.
Lukas’s other entry, Sporting Chance, drew the third post.
If either one of them can spring the surprise, Lukas would tie the record of seven Preakness wins — a mark Baffert can also equal if Justify wins.